Sunday, June 9, 2013

Germany struggles to hold back flood "catastrophe"

Channel News Asia: Thousands of emergency workers, troops and volunteers in Germany battled Sunday against central Europe's worst floods in over a decade, while the swelling Danube put Budapest on high alert. Rising flood waters in Germany have forced mass evacuations in what one lawmaker termed a "national catastrophe."

As Hungary braced for a deluge in its capital, bolstering sandbag barriers as the Danube is expected to reach historic levels, German rescuers focused on the eastern city of Magdeburg. Vast areas around the city were covered in a sea of brown water, sparked by recent torrential rains which have washed down the Elbe river system from the Czech Republic.

The water level in Magdeburg reached 7.45 metres (24 feet) in the morning, up from the usual level of around two metres and worse than massive floods that struck the region in 2002, local authorities said.

Despite frantic efforts to secure it, a dam broke on Sunday south of the city at the point where the Elbe meets the Saale tributary, the local crisis command said, urging the remaining 150 residents in the region to quickly seek high ground. Almost 3,000 residents were evacuated from Magdeburg's Rothensee district, where hundreds of army troops struggled to reinforce a dyke protecting a crucial electricity facility.

President Joachim Gauck on Sunday went on a tour of the flood-hit states of Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, where in vast areas only roofs and tree tops stick out of the water and the only access is by boat or helicopter. "One cannot imagine how much remains to be dealt with," said Gauck in view of the massive clean-up, after joining a church service in the city of Halle.

So far the floods on the Elbe and Danube river systems have killed at least 18 people, including 10 in the Czech Republic....

A May 30 shot from Wertheim, Germany of the flooding then. By Xocolatl, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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